“Here we go, two in a row”.
We sung it and we sung it proud because from the very start of this seasons defence of our cup win we believed we could do it. And why not? We, as a championship team, had won it last season leaving premiership teams in our wake as we headed to the final to break our 114 year Scottish Cup drought.
The season 2016/17 was all about promotion, that was the job given to Neil Lennon and his men. Automatic promotion was the goal and anything else was a bonus. This past season the cup would be a bonus.
Then the singing section came up with “here we go, two in a row” and it felt right. If nothing else then the song built the excitement and the wonder that maybe, just maybe, we could go that far. It would be immense.
Still, the main aim of the entire season was the automatic promotion. We didn’t want play offs, we wanted automatic and that’s why we put our faith in Neil Lennon. He delivered. Our season was sloppy, too many draws that potentially could have been wins but hey, they could have been losses as well. We did it, we became Champions with games to spare and a semi-final to go into where we could just relax.
Saturday 22nd April 2017. Thousands of Hibby’s rise at stupid o’clock for a 12.15 kick off at Hampden. I could launch into a fifteen thousand word essay about these ridiculous kick-off times for the semi’s but who would actually take notice? Not the SFA, not Police Scotland and not Sky Sports.
Personally I had one leg out of my bed for about an hour and I was classing this as being half up. The sun was shining through the curtains, the brain was saying it was a brilliant day for footy, the body was saying otherwise. The body was saying “six weeks on a sun lounger in Spain wouldn’t go astray” (long week).
Anyway, it was what it was and the sports channels dictate the times and we had to go with it. Twenty thousand Hibees would turn up to Hampden to help Hibs defend the Scottish Cup.
Help they did. Singing from the word go, you’d think there was only one set of fans in the HQ of Scottish football. Our fans were AMAZING. Yet that is no surprise. In recent years we’ve upped our game, we’ve kept the faith and we’ve shown it. We grumble at times but we always have the right to and the grumbling it usually spot on. That doesn’t stop us supporting this team to death.
The first minute of the semi-final was a complete nightmare. No one can deny that. John McGinn is surrounded, the ball gets taken off him, our defence is a shambles and BANG, inside 15 seconds Adam Rooney puts Aberdeen 0-1 up.
Hibs just hadn’t turned up and we were poor. It was disappointing because there was no need for us to be poor. We’ve shone in the cup games in the last two years against opponents with leagues position below us and, more importantly, above us.
The day seemed to get even worse when, in the 25th minute, Maricano made and error that saw him help Ryan Christies shot into the back of the net. 0-2 down and not half an hour gone.
Our opponents from across Edinburgh were quick to jump onto social media to “have a good laugh”, although why they felt they could do that is beyond me. They have poor memories is what I’m putting it down to.
On the touchline Neil Lennon as clearly…unhappy with the first half an hour and in the 34th he hooked Fraser Fyvie – who was not amused – and brought on Grant Holt instead. A bold move which would prove crucial as two minutes later Holty put Hibs back in the game and made it 1-2.
Our fans, who had been singing anyway, got louder. We were back in the game. Half time came and we’d picked up a bit. Not a great first half.
The second half we came out and we played. We stepped up and we played our game. We were more exciting, we took more of the possession and on the hour mark Dylan McGeouch slotted home to put us back on level terms against the second best team in the country. Unfortunately Dylan sustained an injury which meant he had to be replaced by Andrew Shinnie (facing his brother Graeme). Dylan has had no luck with injuries lately so let’s hope this isn’t a long term injury.
The fans sang and sang and on the pitch Hibs gave a great account of theirselves and but, for an unfortunate OG by Darren McGregor in the 85th, we were looking towards Extra Time. Football luck tilted Aberdeens way and it’s them that go through to the final on May 27th.
I personally thought Hibs managed to forget that dreadful first half hour or so and played well for at least all of the second half. When the final whistle went I was annoyed and disappointed we weren’t through, I was gutted for Darren McGregor but I felt great pride in my team. In eleven months we’d lifted the Scottish Cup and won our League. Not bad eh. In two years we’ve been on two amazing cup runs. I can live with that, especially dumping Hearts out. We gave them four chances in two years to dump us out and we all know how that ended up…
This is the reason 20,000 fans stayed to sing their players off the park. Not boo, there was no need for that, but sing. Aberdeen fans were well outsung. It was an amazing feeling.
That’s why I was more than slightly surprised to listen to Lenny’s after match interview with Sky Sports. Lenny’s grown on me over the season. I really like him now but to hear him say that the team were “pathetic” and “rubbish” and, in another interview saying that the team were back to their “boy band worst”. I get his points about the way the first two goals were lost, I understand his point on playing the length of the game and I know he’s a winner who expects to win but sometimes you don’t win. I wanted to win that match as much as any other fan and as much as he did but sometimes you just don’t win. Sometimes your team just gets caught out, or loses a goal from an unlucky deflection. You can play 90 minutes of sexy football but lose because you didn’t get enough goals. You can play 90 minutes of brain-numbing football and win, we know that this season. We all know how frustrating this game is.
However, he’s said it, it’s out there and some will agree that he said those things and some will disagree. What I hope the players really remember about Saturday 22 April 2017 is that, despite it all, 20,000 fans on the losing side sang them off the park because the biggest emotion we have for the team and the club is Pride.